Cedar Breaks National....Park?
What's in a name? Dollars, lots of them.
That's the feeling down in Iron County, Utah, where local officials are tantalized by the economic prospects of turning Cedar Breaks National Monument into Cedar Breaks National Park.
Somewhat ironically, it was a decade ago that many Grand County, Utah, residents and officials were aghast when the Clinton administration created the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, and no amount of economics could sell them on the monument's creation.
Obviously, the folks in Iron County see things differently.
During a meeting this week Iron County commissioners were told that enlarging the 6,154-acre national monument to encompass the 7,043-acre Ashdown Gorge Wilderness Area and Flanigan Arch, which stands to the west of the wilderness area, "would make the monument more noticeable and probably bring in more tourists."
Paul Roelandt, the monument's manager, also told the commissioners he has discussed the change in status with representatives of Utah's congressional delegation and with the National Park Service's regional director in Denver and was encouraged by their reaction.
If such a change came about, Cedar Breaks would become Utah's sixth national park, joining Zion, Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands and Capitol Reef with that status.
Is Cedar Breaks, which already draws more than 500,000 visitors a year, worthy?
It is a stunning landscape. The sprawling, multi-hued amphitheater was created by erosion eating away at the colorful underpinnings of the Markagunt Plateau. Within the monument's borders you'll find stands of bristlecone pines, some of the oldest trees on earth. One of the trees standing near Spectra Point is estimated to be more than 1,600 years old.
That said, the monument is "closed" in winter because heavy snows close access roads. That would be just one of the many obstacles that would have to be overcome if Cedar Breaks were to gain national park status.
Too, how would the monument be altered to lure and hold tourists? Currently there are just a few short trails and four scenic overlooks. While Utah 148 courses along the eastern flanks of the monument, no other roads access it, which begs the question of whether national park status would require a new road or two leading to the western boundary?
Of course, another question is whether the National Park Service, which already can't get the funding it needs from Congress, can afford another national park at this point in time?